A minor Basilica located in the heart of Philadelphia, originally built for 75,000 , now is facing a roof repair that cost upwards of 14 million dollars! It is a national historic landmark, a museum, and soon to be home of a shrine for St. Katherine Drexel (http://www.katharinedrexel.org/), and is also an active but aging parish.
After mass today my wife and I enjoyed a tour of the church. What a wonderful and instructive tour. The church, aside from its own splendor, is also a repository of sculptures and artwork from smaller churches that have ceased to be. As the Catholic church as seen diminishing numbers and the cost of maintaining churches has sky rocketed, valuable and impressive church artifacts are found new homes, including moving saints crypts.
The mass was classical in style and included beautiful music played on the fourth largest organ in the city:
Afterwards the artwork and many alcoves tell so many stories of our faith. Historically art was a way of storytelling and communicating the faith – etched in glass, ceramic, or painted on walls and ceilings.
I was also able to sit in the same chair as Pope Francis did when he visited and said Mass on Ben Franklin Parkway. I think it’s the robes that gives him the air of authority and grace!
A common theme in my writings always returns to a principal. A principal I try to teach to up and coming social workers as well. Often, it is not the words or the glamour of the presenter, the oration or eloquence, the skill level or technique – but genuine compassion, demonstrated empathy, and consistent authenticity. How are we living today. Are the American people and our elected leaders practicing genuine compassion, demonstrated empathy, and consistent authenticity? Pope Francis has challenged us on several fronts as individual Christians and as a nation that we are not living or acting as a Christian nation in the areas of compassion, economic stewardship, social welfare, environment, and many other intrinsic values of Christianity. Christianity is so much more than Pro-Life – and he has criticized us on that too in many dimensions regarding the value of life on all fronts.
The church has frequent homeless individuals hiding in the confessionals to get some sleep and un-harassed peace. The a.m. mass before ours had a homeless person taking one of the contribution baskets and fleeing out with a few dollars in the middle of mass – a common problem in this church that has its share of homeless and impoverished people in the community. One statue requires a rosary bead to be present – it is replaced daily as it is always taken by visitors to the church. People are desperate and hungry for grace and for food, housing, shelter.
My thoughts and prayers to the immigrants we are shunning, to the homeless we are ignoring, to the poor who are hungry, and to the spiritually starved who have lost faith in humanity and in God. I pray with tears in my eyes that we as a nation find humility in our hearts, courage to accept the risk of being true leaders, and strength to demand we treat all people with dignity.
Here is one of today’s readings. Read and Reflect if you have time:
Reading 2, First Corinthians 1:26-31
26 Consider, brothers, how you were called; not many of you are wise by human standards, not many influential, not many from noble families.
27 No, God chose those who by human standards are fools to shame the wise; he chose those who by human standards are weak to shame the strong,
28 those who by human standards are common and contemptible — indeed those who count for nothing — to reduce to nothing all those that do count for something,
29 so that no human being might feel boastful before God.
30 It is by him that you exist in Christ Jesus, who for us was made wisdom from God, and saving justice and holiness and redemption.
31 As scripture says: If anyone wants to boast, let him boast of the Lord.